Lehigh Valley

Whitehall reverses decision, approves Sheetz liquor license transfer

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - Saying it was the best they could do under the circumstances, the Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners approved a Pennsylvania restaurant liquor license transfer to a Sheetz. The vote during Monday night's meeting was unanimous.

The ruling reverses a decision made by the board four months previous, which denied the request for the store – located at 5001 MacArthur Road – based on quality of life issues for neighboring residents.

"We did not fold our tent," Commissioner Joseph Marx told residents during Monday night's meeting. "This is the best deal we could get."

After commissioners denied the request in April, the convenience store appealed the decision. Facing the prospects of having the case tied up in court and possibly losing the case outright and costing taxpayer money, the township decided to negotiate with the company.

"At least with this deal we have some skin in the game," Marx said.

The "skin" includes provisions Sheetz must abide by, or face being in violation and potentially losing the license.

The conditional licensing agreement addresses trash on the premises, no loitering criteria established both inside and outside the store and on-site consumption, mandated recently in a 2-1 vote by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control board, the governing body which oversees the license.

Customers who purchase alcohol for consumption at the Sheetz will be limited to two 12-ounce beers, two 4-ounce glasses of wine or one 1.5 ounce spirit.

Further, the store will be subject to security cameras. The cameras will be positioned under the direction of the Whitehall Township Police Department. Sheetz officials who attended the Monday night meeting said they would cooperate with police should they wish to view any videotape.

While commissioners approved the pact, it wasn't a complete kiss-and-makeup session.

Commissioner Thomas Slonaker said the company's attitude over the last few months was nothing short of "arrogant." The commissioner said that there were legitimate concerns about granting the license, as dozens of residents who live nearby the facility petitioned the legislators about their concerns.

"It was as if Sheetz said 'we don't really give a damn,'" Slonaker said.

President Dennis Hower reiterated that evaluation, calling Sheetz's conduct over the last few months "troubling" and "disheartening."

The store still has to formally apply to the Pennsylvania LCB and it will likely be a few months before alcohol sales begin on site, Sheetz officials said.

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